I’ll never forget the master plan I devised about a year after graduating college. At the time I was working for an insurance company making an entry-level salary, which was allowing me to pay my bills on time, go out on Friday nights and occasionally buy a new sweater.
I was by no means rolling in the dough.
While I felt as though my bank account was on a steady decline, my desire to travel and see the world was constantly increasing. I would often find myself daydreaming of Paris, adding European pins to my Pinterest and figuring out how I could make this whole travel thing happen. After much unsuccessful contemplation, I formulated a lousy, imprudent plan. I would take out a $5,000 personal loan to fund my travel venture.
I mean, what other options did I have?
I decided to get some advice about my decision from someone older and much wiser than myself. After reviewing this grand scheme with my dad, what I thought was a master plan was shut down fairly quickly. His first and only response was, “Hannah, people do not take out personal loans to travel.”
Back to square one.
It didn’t take much convincing on my dad’s part. I knew deep down this was not a financially sound decision. Gosh darn, why do parents always have to be right?
Fast forward about one year, one job change and a whole lot of wanderlusting later and I was itching to travel more than ever. I had taken a job as a legal assistant at a boutique law firm in downtown Albany. The people were wonderful and I was making more than I was at my previous job, yet I was still unhappy. There had to be something more than this.
Finally, on May 9, 2013 I booked a flight to Ireland that would leave on September 4 and return three months later. I didn’t have a lot in savings and I still had bills to pay.
How would I make this happen?
I want to be extremely transparent so you realize that anyone can do this. At the time, my salary was $35k. As a young, twenty-something I considered this a decent income. With that being said, I also knew I needed to save for this trip in addition to paying rent, insurance, student loans, etc. As most of you know, life doesn’t just stop because we want something. My first decision was to come up with a game plan. How much would I need? How much could I realistically save in a four-month time span? After completing some research, I came up with a number. That number was $4,500. I made a decision that day to do whatever it took to reach that number. This is how I did it and how you can too:
- Find a second job. I was already working 40+ hours per week but I knew I could squeeze in a little something on the side to bring in extra cash. I took a job doing promotional events for a public relations company. The hours were less than ideal (nights and weekends), but I made $25/hour and worked about 6 hours/week. This brought in roughly $150 extra each week.
- Pick up overtime hours. I was fortunate to have been working at a job that offered overtime, which was equal to time and a half. Whenever possible, I would come in early or stay late. Over time, an hour here and there added up when it came to pay day.
- Limit eating out. As a 23 year-old it would have been completely unrealistic to just put my entire social life on hold for four months. Instead of saying no to friends when asked if I wanted to grab drinks or dinner, I would have something small beforehand so I wouldn’t have to spend a lot out. Believe me, those dinners and happy hours add up if you’re doing it frequently!
- Make lunch and coffee at home. This is probably where most people spend a large portion of their extra money, especially if you work with other people who get take out everyday. It’s so tempting, I know! By bringing my own lunch and coffee to work each day, I prevented myself from spending between $10-$60 per week.
- Save tips and all extra cash. After my Europe trip I came home and started saving for a trip to Southeast Asia. At that time, I was working in an office during the day and as a hostess in the evenings. I was making tips as a hostess, which meant I had a good amount of cash floating around. Instead of keeping it in my wallet, I would put it in an envelope each night in my bedroom. This prevented me from spending it on tedious items. To this day I still practice this by putting all of my barista tips in one central location and then making one large cash deposit twice a month.
- Stop shopping. Another tough one for a lot of people. The Western world breeds people to be consumers and unfortunately, most of us are. We always want more (stay tuned for a post on this soon!). At the end of the day, we have to decide what we want more: A new pair of shoes every week or a day spent roaming the streets of Venice? The choice is yours.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you probably have the desire to travel in some capacity. This is what worked for me and to be blunt, it wasn’t that difficult. These small life alterations allowed me to visit 10 countries and 38 cities in just three months. By cutting back and saving, I experienced the true joy of being a nomad and of making memories that I’ll keep with me forever.
We all have wants, needs, desires and priorities. To make this work I really had to examine each of those things and reorganize my life accordingly. If you make travel a priority, saving will become a part of that priority. If you’re serious about traveling, you will take the steps to make it a reality. Take my word for it: You do not need a trust fund to travel the world.
Before long you’ll be meandering your way through the side streets of Italy, sipping a cappuccino and thanking yourself for cutting back on all of those cappuccinos back home.